“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” ― Julia Child

Monday, April 4, 2011

Embrace The Veg

I have been meat-free since sometime on Saturday. Laura and I made the decision to go vegetarian a week or so ago and gave ourselves the completely arbitrary day of Monday the 4th to complete the transition. I made the decision primarily because I need to lose more weight. Okay, I know, I know... being a vegetarian and losing weight don't necessarily go hand in hand. Believe me, I know from firsthand experience how that works. I was vegetarian when I lived in Seattle and it is oh so easy to fall into the trap of eating things like nachos and fettuccine alfredo purely because they are easy to prepare. A veggie pizza from Domino's does not a skinny butt make.

However, a lot has happened in cuisine since then, and it is a lot easier to purchase non-boring vegetarian fare from your local supermarket. One can purchase interesting, even quite exotic dishes with very little effort. The produce section even makes available a lot of pre-mixed veggie assortments for stir-fry or microwaving that 20 years ago would have been near impossible to find. Not to mention the fact that there is a far wider selection of veg and fruit anyway - used to be if you wanted to find an item like baby corn you would probably have only found it in cans in the Asian section next to the soy sauce. Looking on the grocery website Ocado.com, I can see 17 - count 'em - 17 different one-portion fresh fruit medleys, incorporating such delights as mango, pomegranate, coconut, blueberry and two different kinds of pineapple (who knew?). And they're all from the one grocery store. Getting hold of a papaya, passion fruit or physalis (aka Cape gooseberry) is now as simple as getting out of bed. So the vegetarian diet has become anything but boring.

That was always the problem in the 80s when I was a young idealistic impassioned vegetarian the first time around. My family tried to accommodate me, bless 'em, but you have to admit, a roast dinner without the roast and the gravy and the stuffing is, well, somewhat less than exciting. Much as I loved my Grandmother's cooking, sitting with a plate of carrots, potatoes and cabbage while everyone else around enjoyed a traditional slap-up was slightly depressing. My forays into vegetarian cookery whilst in my teens were experimental at best, while the worst was best forgotten. It was often too easy to resign myself to beans on toast or a scrambled egg instead of spending time creating something new which might or might not turn out the way I hoped.

One of my favourite meals in the 90s when I lived in Washington State was the veggie fajitas at Ixtapa restaurant in Lake Stevens. The sheer size of it had to be witnessed to be believed. First they would bring out the cruet set with the condiments - sour cream (something I've never really liked, it has to be said... compounded by that horrible ad for Daisy - "do, do, do, do, do, do a dollop of Daisy". I've never liked the word "dollop" - it always sounded too, well, poo-like to be used in a food sense - so that just added to my dislike of the stuff), fresh pico de gallo, fresh guac. Salsa already on the table with the chips. Then a massive plate with beans, rice and salad on it comes out with a basket of steamed tortillas. Then the pièce de résistance - the herkin' great sizzlin' skillet o' stuff. And the veggie fajitas had big chunks of carrot, cauliflower, mushroom, broccoli, and the obligatory onions and peppers. I never once finished it, and I can eat, boy. I can put it away. Ask anyone. But that one always required boxing up and taking home. Which came in handy, because the next night I would add the leftover veggies to a jar of store-bought Alfredo sauce and heat them through, then toss with some pasta. Oh yum.

The reason I thought about doing it again was because I stopped being vegetarian one sunny Sunday morning right around the time I got remarried, and my weight has been gradually going up ever since. At that time I wore a 38 waist in pants which I wasn't happy about, since 9 years earlier at my first wedding I weighed 10 stone and wore a 32. I looked good, too...
I recall the morning in question. I went out to eat brunch at a lovely restaurant in Snohomish, WA called The Cabbage Patch, which is in an old Victorian-era house. As I walked in and smelled the aroma of bacon, sausage, and ham cooking, the vegetarian in me completely capitulated and let my inner carnivore win the eternal conflict. From there, it was a slippery slope. I'm not saying that meat-eating caused my weight gain, but it sure didn't help.

Nope, those days are over for me. Not only have I cut out the meat, but I am trying to cut out the fat. And perhaps when I've cut out enough fat and dropped a few more pounds, I might feel like exercising. But the vegetarianism stays. Third time's a charm.





P.S. Don't worry about the blog, though, chaps. Nothing changes. I'll still talk about meat dishes. I just won't be eating them.

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